Warbreaker (Warbreaker #1)

Written By: Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker (Warbreaker #1) by Brandon Sanderson


Prologue

It’s funny, Vasher thought, how many things begin with my getting thrown into prison.

The guards laughed to one another, slamming the cell door shut with a clang. Vasher stood and dusted himself off, rolling his shoulder and wincing. While the bottom half of his cell door was solid wood, the top half was barred, and he could see the three guards open his large duffel and riffle through his possessions.

One of them noticed him watching. The guard was an oversized beast of a man with a shaved head and a dirty uniform that barely retained the bright yellow and blue coloring of the T’Telir city guard.

Bright colors, Vasher thought. I’ll have to get used to those again. In any other nation, the vibrant blues and yellows would have been ridiculous on soldiers. This, however, was Hallandren: land of Returned gods, Lifeless servants, BioChromatic research, and—of course—color.

The large guard sauntered up to the cell door, leaving his friends to amuse themselves with Vasher’s belongings. “They say you’re pretty tough,” the man said, sizing up Vasher.

Vasher did not respond.

“The bartender says you beat down some twenty men in the brawl.” The guard rubbed his chin. “You don’t look that tough to me. Either way, you should have known better than to strike a priest. The others, they’ll spend a night locked up. You, though . . . you’ll hang. Colorless fool.”

Vasher turned away. His cell was functional, if unoriginal. A thin slit at the top of one wall let in light, the stone walls dripped with water and moss, and a pile of dirty straw decomposed in the corner.

“You ignoring me?” the guard asked, stepping closer to the door. The colors of his uniform brightened, as if he’d stepped into a stronger light. The change was slight. Vasher didn’t have much Breath remaining, and so his aura didn’t do much to the colors around him. The guard didn’t notice the change in color—just as he hadn’t noticed back in the bar, when he and his buddies had picked Vasher up off the floor and thrown him in their cart. Of course, the change was so slight to the unaided eye that it would have been nearly impossible to pick out.

“Here, now,” said one of the men looking through Vasher’s duffel. “What’s this?” Vasher had always found it interesting that the men who watched dungeons tended to be as bad as, or worse than, the men they guarded. Perhaps that was deliberate. Society didn’t seem to care if such men were outside the cells or in them, so long as they were kept away from more honest men.

Assuming that such a thing existed.

From Vasher’s bag, a guard pulled free a long object wrapped in white linen. The man whistled as he unwrapped the cloth, revealing a long, thin-bladed sword in a silver sheath. The hilt was pure black. “Who do you suppose he stole this from?”

The lead guard eyed Vasher, likely wondering if Vasher was some kind of nobleman. Though Hallandren had no aristocracy, many neighboring kingdoms had their lords and ladies. Yet what lord would wear a drab brown cloak, ripped in several places? What lord would sport bruises from a bar fight, a half-grown beard, and boots worn from years of walking? The guard turned away, apparently convinced that Vasher was no lord.

He was right. And he was wrong.

“Let me see that,” the lead guard said, taking the sword. He grunted, obviously surprised by its weight. He turned it about, noting the clasp that tied sheath to hilt, keeping the blade from being drawn. He undid the clasp.

The colors in the room deepened. They didn’t grow brighter—not the way the guard’s vest had when he approached Vasher. Instead, they grew stronger. Darker. Reds became maroon. Yellows hardened to gold. Blues approached navy.

“Be careful, friend,” Vasher said softly, “that sword can be dangerous.”

The guard looked up. All was still. Then the guard snorted and walked away from Vasher’s cell, still carrying the sword. The other two followed, bearing Vasher’s duffel, entering the guard room at the end of the hallway.

The door thumped shut. Vasher immediately knelt beside the patch of straw, selecting a handful of sturdy lengths. He pulled threads from his cloak—it was beginning to fray at the bottom—and tied the straw into the shape of a small person, perhaps three inches high, with bushy arms and legs. He plucked a hair from one of his eyebrows, set it against the straw figure’s head, then reached into his boot and pulled out a brilliant red scarf.

Then Vasher Breathed.

It flowed out of him, puffing into the air, translucent yet radiant, like the color of oil on water in the sun. Vasher felt it leave: BioChromatic Breath, scholars called it. Most people just called it Breath. Each person had one. Or, at least, that was how it usually went. One person, one Breath.

Vasher had around fifty Breaths, just enough to reach the First Heightening. Having so few made him feel poor compared with what he’d once held, but many would consider fifty Breaths to be a great treasure. Unfortunately, even Awakening a small figure made from organic material—using a piece of his own body as a focus—drained away some half of his Breaths.

The little straw figure jerked, sucking in the Breath. In Vasher’s hand, half of the brilliant red scarf faded to grey. Vasher leaned down—imagining what he wanted the figure to do—and completed the final step of the process as he gave the Command.

“Fetch keys,” he said.